Nacogdoches Juneteenth celebration focuses on past, present, future

Juneteenth planners discuss Saturday's event. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Juneteenth planners discuss Saturday's event. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Juneteenth Family Festival is free to all. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Juneteenth Family Festival is free to all. (Source: KTRE Staff)

Nacogdoches - June 19th, known primarily in the south as Juneteenth is Tuesday, but most celebrations will take place Saturday. A parade and barbecue will happen in Nacogdoches.

Planners want people to have a good time while learning about the celebration's significance.

Juneteenth commemorates not the day slaves were freed in 1863, but rather the day slaves in Texas heard they were free.

Two years later in Texas, the message was given to the slaves," said Pastor Leonard Sweat, a planner for this year's event.

Sweat tells the story every year while reminiscing over celebrations that actually started in Texas and spread throughout the South.

"I remember going to the swimming pool, and they had watermelon in the pool," Sweat said.

The Progressive Leadership Group, an organization that Sweat is a member of, sponsors the free Juneteenth celebration in Nacogdoches. He would like to see those days come back.

"We have a culture of our own and let's celebrate that," Sweat said.

The culture has surprising connections. African-Americans before and after slavery had an alliance with the Caddo Indian Tribe.

"The Indians actually took in slaves and protected them," said Litigious Mills, a Nacogdoches County landowner. "The Indians lived in the woods. That's why so many African-Americans today own property that's heavily wooded. That's where their families began. Some slaves would actually give their children to the Caddo to raise, so they wouldn't have to be raised as slaves, Mills said.

Over time, Juneteenth drew participants from other races. The late Congressman Charles Wilson routinely attended Juneteenth celebrations.

The NAACP helps a lot in the planning of the Nacogdoches Juneteenth events.

Richard Lundie, an officer, said, "If you look at the history of it, they had four blacks, four whites, four females and four males that started this. They were the charter members."

Celina Garrett organizes a parade and free events but never forgets the ultimate goal of Juneteenth.

"It's nothing just about African-Americans, Garrett said. "It's about the community, and we all want to be one. I just want everyone to be united."

the Juneteenth celebration in Nacogdoches begins with a parade on Saturday morning. The formation is at 10 a.m. at TJR Elementary.

The parade will be at 11 a.m. Immediately afterward, there will be free barbecue, music, and entertainment at Festival Park until around 1 p.m. Everyone is invited.

Copyright 2018 KTRE. All rights reserved.